Shakespeare's Globe

RSS At The Globe

Hamlet is back at the Globe! Josh talks about the pressure of performing at this theatre, but how the Globe lends itself perfectly to this play, particularly for Hamlet's soliliques.

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Time: 8 minutes, 10 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

Hayley Bartley:

So we are now at the Globe, how are you finding this venue?

Josh McGuire:

Amazing, it’s great. It’s like playing a rock concert more than theatre. Brilliant. I mean the demands are different.

HB:

Yes, how does it compare to Margate and Street?

JM:

Each space is different, but this one more so because it is massive but it’s also quite intimate. The ability to see people is amazing which you can’t really do in inside theatres because of the lights. The history of it and the structure’s amazing.

HB:

Yes there’s definitely a feeling in the Globe, it has a presence.

JM:

And the audience come - the best audiences are the ones that come ready, up for it you know, up for a good time, and hopefully that’s what we give them.

HB:

And so have you had to make any changes to the play? Has it been adapted in any way to suit this...

JM:

We’ve had to kind of crank it open because we travel on a fairly modest, small stage. So we’ve kind of ripped it open because the Globe stage is very wide, it’s not really depth wise, we are kind of ok, but we’ve had to kind of change the set a little bit. So we got rid of our floor, so we’re using the Globe floor, and expand the perimeters of the structure that we tour around, we’ve plonked that on the Globe stage. So it’s kind of grown width wise, that’s the main thing that’s changed.

HB:

What about your performance in particular, has that needed to be adapted? I know the soliloquies – great work checking out all the crowd, I was really observant of that and I guess you probably had to work on that.

JM:

I heard someone say to me, or I read something the other day, saying you know, “What’s interesting is the way they’re played out to the audience, rather than internalised.” And I just thought, “God, if I was playing Hamlet at a normal theatre I don’t know how I’d do it internal without people to speak to.” The Globe and Hamlet is a perfect match because the Globe - “This distracted Globe” he says about his head. To me all the audience in the Globe are the inside of his head so he’s talking to “you’re his conscience, you’re his good, you’re his bad, you’re his love, you’re his hate...” That’s kind of how I’ve done it.

HB:

So how did you do it in Margate and Street?

JM:

Kind of the same...

HB:

...But it was just less.

JM:

Exactly, it was less. I think my performance is perhaps developing. I had a friend come last night, who had seen it on the third night we were here, and now we’re on our twenty-something performance here and she said it had got more emotional at the beginning, which is interesting. And there is something about this space, if it taps into you, the energy of this space is very moving and it can take you by surprise which it did last night. I think that was a one off though, I don’t think it’s going to happen again.

HB:

How about – I thought your mad scenes were very effective because the comedy works well in the Globe I think because people react to it.

JM:

Yeah, yeah, I think Hamlet is a really funny play. I always thought that even before I encountered Dominic and his vision of it. We’ve cranked it up, but it’s there, we haven’t crow-barred it in. All that comedy is there and that’s what it is in life. Tragedy and comedy is a really thin line. And going mad, when you’re mad you don’t know you’re mad, but for everyone else it’s shocking. But he does some ridiculous things – A really great thing I read, someone said, “Hamlet is a genius, but at the same time can be so idiotic.” The comedy is there in the mad scenes but I think the comedy is at its most effective when it contrasts to the bursts of tragedy.

HB:

Yes and they’re the successful plays of Shakespeare, I think. I am less of a fan of Macbeth because I don’t think there’s enough comedy in it, whereas Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet are just the perfect blend. That’s what I think.

JM:

Great, yeah, yeah. It’s all there in the text and Shakespeare definitely knew what he was doing.

HB:

Are there any other things that worked better at the Globe or worse here?

JM:

Well the play-within-a-play, because the way we do it here a third, no less than that, a quarter of the audience see behind the curtain. So that’s like a little game we play with them. And that’s the great thing about the Globe, you can see, if you’re in the audience, you can see other audience members. And so people standing, the groundlings, are just seeing a red curtain, but they are looking at people in the gentlemen’s boxes who are just laughing at something behind, and they’re going, “What are they seeing.” And it’s all this interactive experience. And then the curtain goes forward and they’re like, “Oh wow”, but to the gentlemen’s boxes, they’ve kind of had this little show going on behind of manic actors running about.

HB:

I was right in the middle so I got all the Ophelia-Hamlet...

JM:

...It is interesting how people react to it. I think some people go, “Oh, that’s weird, we can see them”, but it’s all part of the joke, the construct we’re playing it in.

HB:

Yes it plays to your construct doesn’t it?

JM:

We’re a group of actors.

HB:

Yeah, how do you find the Globe audience then compared to past audiences?

JM:

They’re the best. The willingness and the openness the audiences do, should, and need, to come to the Globe is brilliant. I mean the last three performances have been amazing, they’ve been the best. Friday amazing, Saturday matinee amazing and last night best yet. And so we are really on a high at the moment and the audiences are just completely behind us and getting it. I think our show’s interesting. The first two scenes, or the first act, Act one, is like the wheels starting to turn, to get in motion, and the audience they have to suss out what we are doing. And then when they go to Act two the comedy starts flowing a little bit: “Ok I feel what’s going on now.” An audience set a tone for a piece, because if they completely neglected the comedy, we’d just look like complete fools because we are making these jokes and nothing would happen. But they embrace that and get it so that’s good.

HB:

Yes, I think you’re right about the first act, you’re just like, “Right, what’s going on here? We’ve got to use our imagination a bit.”

JM:

Yes, exactly. You’re going, “Right, ok, so this is how it is. I find that funny, but should I really be looking.” Audiences bring a preconceived idea of a play. They come to see Hamlet, they expect to be bored for four hours and then leave and say it’s the best thing they’ve seen in the theatre, ever. But actually they were there out of a duty, because it’s Hamlet and you say Hamlet was good. So they come to that and our job in the first act is to smash those preconceived ideas.

HB:

I just think your production is a refreshing change from Hamlets of late.

JM:

I mean by no means am I bad-mouthing Hamlets that have gone in the past because they’ve been amazing. My friend was in the Kinnear one [Hamlet at the National Theatre], he understudied Rory, he played Rosencrantz. I saw at the understudy run and it was great, stunning, could not be any more different to ours.

HB:

Yes a very stark contrast to yours.

JM:

In good company to all the other guys who have done it.

HB:

Where are you onto next after the Globe?

JM:

Austria, I can’t wait! We go a week tomorrow so I’ve got a nice couple of days off, give the voice a rest...

HB:

...Indeed. I’ll be interested to hear what the Austrian audience make of it.

JM:

I know! I think there’s quite a lot of English speaking, I have a feeling everywhere we’re going lots of people speak English, and its Hamlet you know. It will be interesting to see how they take the comedy I reckon, it will be really interesting to see how different cultures, different places, take it. And Elsinore, God, you know who knows – He’s coming to see it today, the guy who runs or organises the Elsinore performance. He’s in today...

HB:

...Oh really...

JM:

...So we might not being going to Elsinore after the performance today [laughs]. I love playing here but I definitely feel a pressure myself, brought on by no one else but me. I can’t wait to get out on the road, by no means that the production is going to be any different, but to have those restrictions enforced on us again of the space and stuff like that is going to be good.

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